Rev. Dr. Rodney Kennedy

Interim Pastor
E-mail Rev. Dr. Rodney Kennedy

Dr. Kennedy has a PhD in rhetorical criticism from Louisiana State University and has completed all requirements for the ThD in homiletics from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is a tireless advocate for social justice and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Kennedy is the author of five books:

The Creative Power of Metaphor
The Encouraging Parent
Sermons from Mind and Heart
Will Campbell, Preacher Man
Gathering Together: Baptists at Work in Worship

His sermons are available each week by email.  Please email him at to be part of the sermon mail list.

Mark Grizzard

Music/Young Adult Program Leader
E-mail Mark Grizzard

Mark Grizzard serves as Music Director and Young Adults Leader.  He directs the Chancel Choir and Youth Band, and he coordinates other ensembles including the guitar ensemble Higher Ground, Men’s Choir, and special-event music groups.  He also leads the youth group and organizes small group activities for young adults.  In addition to his work at the church, Mark is an adjunct School of Music faculty member at Illinois State University, and he has years of professional experience as a performer, composer, arranger, educator, and clinician.  He lives in Peoria with his wife Leigh.

Dr. Joshua Russell

E-mail Dr. Joshua Russell

Dr. Joshua Russell plays the piano and organ for worship services and additional functions at First Baptist Church.  He has performed throughout the world as a concert pianist, organist, and conductor and is recognized as a leading expert on the piano music of Haiti.  He frequently appears as a soloist with orchestras across North America and is a sought-after speaker on topics related to music performance and teaching.

Leigh Grizzard

Handbell Director

Leigh Grizzard is in her fifth year as Handbell Choir Director.  In addition to directing the First Baptist Handbell Choir, Leigh is Director of Choirs at Pekin Community High School, where she conducts three curricular choirs as well as the Pekin Noteables show choir.  A Music Education graduate from Valparaiso University,  Leigh also directs the Youth Choir at Trinity Lutheran Church in Peoria and is active in many area musical opportunities, such as singing in the annual Peoria Bach Festival and performing as a soloist with the Peoria Municipal Band.  She lives in Peoria with her husband Mark.

Sandy Johansen

Church Secretary
E-mail Sandy Johansen

Sandy Johansen joined the staff at First Baptist on April 2009.  She brings 30-plus years of administrative experience to the role of Church Secretary.  Some of her duties include greeting and assisting visitors and callers, producing the weekly church newsletter and worship bulletins, and  preparing the slides for Sunday worship service. She lives in Medina township with her husband of 17 years, Jeff Johansen.